Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Missed Levaya-Baruch Dayan Emes Adira Boltshauser

I remember when I first heard the news.

I was sitting at my desk, back in Baltimore, it was the first Sunday evening of the Fall 2007 semester, when I received a phone call from my friend Yehuda telling me that he was engaged to Adira Miller of Lakewood.

I was thrilled, my best friend was getting engaged! He was the first of a long line of friends who would be getting engaged (and married), but that was really the realization for me that we was entering adulthood. Another stage in life that showed our independence, an independence that requires and intimate interdependence.

It's a good thing, when people find their other half.

A half that was ripped away from us today.

I received the email yesterday morning telling us of Adira's condition. They would have been married for 2 years next month, and what should have been a time of joy, was clouded with news of both mother and baby in the Intensive Care Unit.

We didn't know how to respond, this was a new experience for both me and my wife Elisheva, we didnt' know if calling Yehuda would do more good then bad so we started davening for both Adira and her and Yehuda's baby girl.

We would occasionally get email's updating us of Adira and baby's condition.

B"H the baby seemed to be getting stronger and was starting to function on it's own. Even Adira it seemed was holding on as the doctors tried to stabilize the hemorrhage in the back of her brain.

We didn't expect what happened next...

The first time my wife met Adira was actually at a wedding of a friend of ours. The friend's wedding happened to take place one week before mine and Elisheva's wedding.

According to a Jewish custom the chassan and kallah don't see each other for the week before the wedding, so we had said goodbye at the hall's entrance, I entered the men's door and she the women's.

Yehuda is a photographer and was photographing the wedding. The chassan getting married happened to be a good friend of ours from high school.

Elisheva didn't know anyone, and when I saw Adira standing next to Yehuda helping him with the lighting, I asked her if she would go to the woman's side, and introduce her to Elisheva to help her feel more comfortable.

Elisheva and I were sitting down this evening looking at our wedding album, and picture's that I'd seen dozens of times before all of the sudden had a different meaning.

Here was my wedding, which took place only a few short months ago, my entrance into the world of matrimony which my friend Yehuda and his wife attended with great joy.

Joy on the faces of Yehuda (very visible in the pictures due to his extremely tall physique) and the smooth, glowing face of Adira as she watched my new wife dancing with her friends and new family.

I sat down at the computer after taking a short nap this afternoon and just stared at the screen.

It just couldn't be.

The Yeshiva World News website was informing us if the passing of photographer Yehuda Boltshauser's wife Adira.

I was shocked.

My wife burst into tears after I told her, as did my mom when I made a very somber call to America.

This couldn't be real! This is the type of things that happen to other people! Not people you know! Not friends of yours!

We received a phone call from non other then the person who's wedding my wife met Adira at, making arrangements to go to the funeral.

I was still in shock and found myself sitting in a sherut headed to Be'er Yaakov outside of Rishon Letzion where the levaya was to take place.

There wasn't much talking during the ride, all of us, who had only a few short week's ago hung out in our living room following a Shabbos meal smiling, laughing, the same people with a very different feeling and all with their own thoughts.

Unfortunately we arrived too late, the levaya had finished a good hour before we were able to get there.

Everyone was gone, and we were the only one's in this very dark, cold parking lot at the beit hakevarim, not sure what we should do.

Just a short walk away in the dark was our friend, a friend that we will never see again.

I'm glad it was dark so no one saw my tears.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Tale of Two Lost Wallets

Yes, I know I haven't written in a while, already starting last year with spotty internet connections, and big life changes, and getting married, and just...LIFE. It took a toll on my postings (by "toll" I think I've posted like 5 times in the past year.
Anyways, my wife has told me she wants me to start writing again, and now that post wedding life has settled down, and we have a solid internet connection, the time seemed right.
The direction of this blog will take a turn then it did previously. Originally I'd planned to document my experiences as an oleh, and not delve into politics or other things that might have any shred of controversy.
My old blog was more, how should I say it?... eclectic. And I'm going to start writing about a broader range of topics now, and will probably even have some rants in there that I'm sure will offend some people.
But to ease you back in I need to tell you the tale of two wallets.

About 2 months ago we (the Jews) had a fast day known as Tisha B'Av. It is the day in which our two Temples were destroyed as well as a slew of other tragedies that befell the Jewish people.

During my first Tisha B'Av in Israel I had spent it on Moshav Matisyahu to hear Rav Zev Leff speak. Now that I was married I saw no reason to break with this tradition. So my wife and I planned that we would spend Tisha B'Av on the Moshav.
We packed our things for our overnight stay and left on the bus to Yerushalayim in the morning. She would be going to work and I would be in Yeshiva and we would meet up later to catch a bus to the Moshav.
I was in charge of our duffel bag, it had been a long time since I had transported anything under the bus, and I was worried that I would forget our bag under the bus when we arrived in Yerushalyim. (As I typically fall asleep on buses and in my stupor would forget a detail like that.)
Luckily when the time for my wife's stop came I was awake and had not forgotten about our bag. Four stops later my stop came, and I asked the driver to open the luggage compartment for me to take the bag.
I pulled the bag off, waved the bus driver off and waited for the next bus to take me to the Old City.
Luckily I didn't have long to wait, within a minute the #2 bus came, and I reached into my pocket to take out my wallet...
...which wasn't there.

With horror I realized that the wallet had fallen out of my pocket in the bus! Trying to think what to do, the first thing I did was call Egged's lost and found. My mind was racing as it dialed, how would I get to Yeshiva? I didn't have any money or my bus pass? I was also carrying this heavy bag so walking wasn't really an option.
The woman at Egged informed me that it could take up to 24 hours for them to locate anything and that they would get back to me.
Still not knowing what to do, I tried calling my wife, not sure exactly what she would be able to do, but at least to tell her what was going on, and maybe should could come to where I was and give me some money. (This is besides the fact that all of my credit cards-including the America ones- and my American driver's license were in the wallet-I had no idea how I would replace those in Israel).
So I called and heard the phone ring. And ring. and ring.
Upon hearing her voicemail I hung up and called again, and then something hit me. An image of my wife's phone charging as we had been getting ready to leave that morning and that she didn't have her phone.
Starting to feel a little more panic, I racked my brain of what to do next.The Egged station where all of the intercity buses ended their routes was only about a 15 minute walk from where I was. I could walk down there and see if I could track down my wallet.
I started walking and I realized the my father in law works in Har Hotzvim, right next to where the bus station is. So I called him and explained what had happened. He happened to be passing by the station at that moment, so he pulled in and went to speak with someone there, explaining the situation.
He ended up meeting my bus, right as it was pulling into the station. Within 5 minutes from then and less then 10 after I'd gotten off the bus, I had my wallet back in my hand.
Marveling at this incredible stroke of luck (or maybe a divinely assisted hand), my wife called me from her work phone to inform me that she had left her cell phone at home.
I promptly informed her of the events of the last 10 minutes.

That was Lost Wallet Story #1
Here's Lost Wallet Story #2

My wife had to work on Eruv Yom Kippur, I spent the day basically cooking and mikve and...cooking.
When my wife came home she she received a call that she had left her wallet on the bus. Her brother drove her over to Beit Shemesh to try and see if she could pick it up (she wanted to get it done before Yom Kippur. The bus driver said "it's fine I left it with the security guard-just ask for Muhammed").
To anyone living in the Beit Shemesh area knows that about 9 months ago Egged ceased being the main bus provider in the area, making way for a company called SuperBus. My wife knew where the Egged bus depot was, but when she arrived there she was greeted with only Superbuses.
It turned out that the old Egged bus depot was know home to the Superbus depot. The time for the fast was quickly approaching, so we had to go into Yom Kippur hoping for the best.

The morning after Yom Kippur we called the Egged Lost and Found dept. to see if they could locate the wallet. When it was found they said it would be given to the bus driver of the 10:00 bus to Yerushalayim, all we had to do was wait for the driver at the stop and get the wallet from him.
Somehow I was very skeptical about this working out, but at 10:00 I found myself waiting for the bus.
I waited for about 8 minutes when the Egged bus came around the corner. One of the good things about this was I learned a new Hebrew word Arnak (wallet). So I confidently stepped on the bus and asked the bus driver for "the arnak," and he kinda just stared at me with this blank look on his face.
I was beginning to wonder if I'd gotten the word wrong "the arnak."
He told me he had no idea what I was talking about.
I got off the bus, wondering if the wallet was on the next bus, and I noticed that the bus that I'd been on was the 497 to Benei Brak, not the 417 to Yerushalayim.
About two minutes later the 417 bus came and driver had my wife's wallet.
As I had been waiting for the bus I ran into a friend of mine and told him the whole story and he pointed out that it was very interesting that both my wife and I had lost our wallets on eruv Tisha B'Av and on Eruv Yom Kippur (I wonder if there's some hidden message there?)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Real Escape from Slavery

“It happened that when Pharaoh sent out the nation...Hashem didn't lead them near the Land of the Pilishtim because it was near. Hashem said that when they see a war they will want to return to Egypt.”(Exodus 13:17)

Rashi asks what was the reason that Hashem didn't want to lead the Benai Yisrael near the land of the Pilishtim? And why would going near there cause the Benei Yisrael to want to return to Egypt where they had been slaves for 210 years? And what does it mean “it was near?” What was it near? and what was the significance of mentioning that?

To understand this we need to look back at a previous parsha, and look at the kal vechomer in Parshas Vaera.
Hashem has instructed Moshe to tell Paraoh that he is planning on taking the Jews out of Egypt. Moshe responds, “I can't speak.” (Exodus 6:30)
Why is Moshe saying that he can't speak? Hashem just told him to do something! Why is making this apparent excuse?
Moshe's point was “I just got back from speaking to the Benai Yisrael, and they (who my message is beneficial for) wouldn't listen to me. Why would Pharaoh (who my message is detrimental for) listen to me?

What Moshe didn't understand was that there was a reason that Hashem wanted these events to take place. He wanted Pharaoh to be warned and he wanted the Mitzriyam to go through all of the Makkos, because it wouldn't be enough for the Jews to simply be taken physically out of Mitzriyam, they needed to have the emotional and mental burdens lifted off of them, and psychologically exit Egypt as well. They needed to see the Mitzriyam humiliated and they needed to feel that they were strong.

Hashem's goal is for the Benai Yisrael to be able to walk on their own two feet and throw off the mentality of two centuries of slavery.

But the process didn't end with the Makkos. As we see in this week's Parsha, when the Benai Yisrael are standing by the Yam Suf, and the Mitzriyam are chasing after them, they still have that fear of the Mitzriyam. Yes everything was going great when Hashem was throwing frogs, lice and hail on them, but now they're out and exposed on the water and they still feel helpless and that Hashem is not really with them.

Perhaps the reason that Hashem didn't want to expose the Benai Yisrael to the Pilishtim, was because they still felt, in however small a way, like they were still slaves to the Mitzriyam. To be presented, right out of Egypt, to another nation that wants to start a war with them, will cause them to run back to Egypt, where, as their rational goes, “It's better to be a slave in Egypt then dead out in the desert.” (Exodus 14:12)
They're still clinging to that idea of slavery, that idea of, even if it's hard work, it's steady, it's stable, and it's predictable. Fear of the unknown.
And that's what Hashem's goal is for them to get to the point where they say, “We trust 100% in Hashem, no matter how unpredictable our lives are.”
So Hashem puts them on the rock, with the Mitzriyam bearing down on them, waiting for someone to take that first move and walk forwards by themselves. And as the Midrash explains, Nachson ben Aminadav did take that first step, the step that finally freed the B”Y from the Mitzriyam.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Yes...You Can

I was coming on the bus back from Yerushalayim tonight with a few of the guys. As we got on our bus I say down somewhere in the middle in front of a Charedi man.
One of my guys walked past me and asked, "Can I sit in the back."
I answered, "Yes, you can."
At which point the Charedi guy says, "Shas, Yes We Can."
I turn around and correct him, "Um, Barak Obama, Yes We Can.

He tilts his head and says, "Ah, he stole it from Shas.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Tax Form has Arrived!...and it's all in Hebrew

Well, I returned for Yerushalayim today to an email informing me that my tax form is in my box, waiting to be filled out and returned to the office. I open up the envelope, and discover that the entire form (all 3 pages) are "Rak BeIvrit."
So what do I do?
Utilize mostly from the Hebrew I learned in in Ulpan which helped me fill out about 70% of the form (I knew that darn thing was good for something!) and then used Google Translate for the rest of the words I didn't know.
I did discover that you have to be careful how you conjugate the words and try to strip to word down to the root, otherwise the word could be changed from "Parents" to "Saponaria," (and I have no clue what that means.)

But this is just a reminder to me (and to all of those in America who are biting their fingernails-which is not healthy by the way) that even with a war life goes on. And we do have to remember that there are people who are literally putting their lives on the line in order for me to sit here comfortably in front of the computer, filling out a tax form, in the Land of Israel.